The British Covert Human Intelligence Sources Bill, due to be considered in the House of Lords in February, allows for the recruitment of children of 16 and 17 years old to spy on their parents, and at the same time allow them to break the law in doing so.
Covert child agents can break the law if it means they will be able to glean information that could prevent or detect crime, protect public health, safety, or national security or help collect taxes, says the guidance, quietly laid by the government this month.
It allows 22 state agencies, including the intelligence service, the military and the police, to use children as undercover agents, though there must be a senior executive overseeing the operation.
The measures are likely to be used in operations against “county lines” drug gangs, as well as investigating suspected terror plots. Last year, the high court ruled police recruitment of children was lawful.